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France

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Multiple magazine articles, both scholarly and popular extoll the benefits of bilingualism or multilingualism for the health and efficiency of the human brain.  It is said that those who learn multiple languages from birth are less likely, for example, to develop early onset Alzheimer’s disease…if the disease does appear, it is more likely to be delayed proportionately to the fluency and depth of understanding attained in a second language.  Foreign languages are promoted as a means to make your child (or self) appear more sophisticated and cognitively advanced, leading parents to believe their child will become a front running contender for advanced educational programs, degrees, and be more competitive in the job markets of the future.  Of course, certain languages are considered more useful than others, depending on where you live in the world.  In a not so distant past, it was believed that learning a second language could cause developmental delays, but this is no longer the current consensus.

From my readings, I often gather that an overlying assumption motivates parents’ wishes for their children to learn foreign languages: that it makes their minds more logical and mathematical, and therefore better prepared for our technical and information age.   While I understand these arguments, some of which seem plausible and worthy, I have my own reasons for defending and promoting multi-lingualism.  To learn a new language means to learn to understand and assimilate a new culture.  Culture includes body language and unspoken assumptions about time, proximity, morality, justice, love and how affection is demonstrated or withheld, diet, and so much more.  Simply learning grammatical constructs, while being great gymnastics for the rational mind, is only a small part of the benefits of bilingualism.

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Aug 6 2010

ShareReads: YUM!

by ShareReads

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it. The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it. The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading. Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

My passion for books and my passion for food and cooking may seem disparate on the surface, but there are many similarities.  The layers and textures found in an expertly prepared meal are as enjoyable to consume as a triumphant work of fiction.  I appreciate the artistry of a well-constructed menu or dish in the same way that I recognize quality in literature.  Julia Child’s My Life in France combined these two loves for me in one perfect reading experience.  Her memoir, written with her husband’s grand-nephew, Alex Prud’homme, reflects on a life lived to the full.  She writes about France from the fresh perspective of a woman who had never been to Europe, didn’t know the language, and was amazed and entranced by the warmth and humanity of the French people.  She and her husband Paul moved to Paris, where he was assigned to work at the American Embassy, in 1948.  Shortly after arriving, they enjoyed what she considered to be a perfect meal at a small restaurant in Rouen, and this was the start of her love for French cuisine, culture, and people.  This passion led to enrolling at Le Cordon Bleu, and from there, the cookbooks, TV show, and life as a beloved food celebrity.

This book is worth reading for Child’s evocative descriptions of the culture and spirit of Paris, Marseille (where they moved after a few years), and the French countryside.  She introduces the shopkeepers, greengrocers, wine merchants, culinary instructors, and restaurant owners as dear friends and sources of inspiration.  Such a large part of her life in France and later was consumed by work on her masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and reading about the trials and successes surrounding that process is like gaining access to a quintessential culinary event with a backstage pass.  Most of all, Julia Child’s meals—what she cooked, what she ate—are described in such loving detail, you must read for yourself to fully appreciate.

Julia Child savored life, lived it with passion, and conveys that passion in My Life in France. Enjoy, and Bon Appetit!

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